By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

A column of black smoke and flames rose from what appeared to be the camp of a homeless person in the Elk Creek Wildlife Area yesterday afternoon.

Firefighters from the Crescent City Volunteer Fire Department and the California Department of Forestry and Crescent Fire Protection District were alerted by a passerby. The black smoke was visible from the center of town.

There was a mattress, a tin pot and an empty food can near the center of the burned area.

Several other small camps could be seen tucked into the brush nearby.

No campers were in sight when firefighters arrived.

Crescent City Police Officer Ryan Wakefield said the Elk Creek area is a andquot;hot spotandquot; for homeless people who usually move in and out of the area with the seasons.

andquot;They usually move in with the summer and they will be here until winter. It's a lifestyle choice,andquot; Wakefield said.

Wakefield also serves the community as a volunteer firefighter, and said though some Elk Creek-area campfires do get out of control, it is not common.

Yesterday's fire spread several feet in all directions through surrounding brittle grasses and brush.

The brushy lands extend north from Elk Valley Road at the intersection of Highway 101 to Second Street. The area stretches behind several commercial businesses such as Safeway, and is thickly inhabited with homeless people.

Wakefield said the land is under Del Norte County jurisdiction. Unless posted otherwise, camping is legal there. Camping is not legal in the city limits.